Dreams. See, they're like this: vivid and fragmented all at once, hyper colorful with pieces of black and white and moments of sepia mixed in; they're fleeting, but there's almost a haze that's left behind.
There's dreams I have and there's dreams I have that I remember, and then there are those awake dreams, the ones that begin as hopes or prayers that only become solid and real when I make them happen.
Making things happen is hard.
There is doubt.
There is laziness.
There is Big Brother to watch three times a week during summer.
There is sunburn that hurts and yoga to be done.
There is heartbreak that confuses things for a minute, though to be totally honest, that feeling has been whittled down to about twenty seconds, and it only happens in the very middle of the night when I wake up and I'm holding a pillow that's no longer cool.
There is the momentary feeling of really having nothing of substance to say.
But then there is that pull. To stretch. To challenge myself. To take hold of a thought and stir it through whatever internal process exists that converts it into communicable language, a process I don't always understand. The best writing I ever do is when I'm in a groove or a flow and I just write, and then later, when I go back and read it, I don't fully remember the moment of crafting the sentence, of sliding words next to one another, and I get to realize things about myself that I didn't actually know.
I write for a lot of reasons, and the reasons are not always consistent. Sometimes it's because I need that cathartic burst of relief, and it's either fling open a notebook and grab a pen or go cry in the shower, the best place to cry because the hot water washes the tears away and you end up smelling like coconut-vanilla body scrub because the tears stop eventually and then it's time to exfoliate – for real, not emotionally-speaking. That writing, that hideous, heartbreak-style of tortured prose, has thankfully only been embarked upon a few times and not at all recently. The handwriting of those pieces is that of a scrawl, almost illegible, because the pen was gripped so tightly in the way that happens when you need to control something – anything.
The best writing for me though is the kind that feels organic and idea-driven, when a line comes into my head, already formed as though someone else said it yesterday and I laughed at it. Sometimes it's a whole line ("on the plus side, I can cross 'date a possible sociopath' off my bucket list"); sometimes it's a few words put together ("Tori Spelling," "tragic clavicle"), but the words make me smile and I then almost run to my computer and the rest of the piece writes itself around the initial idea. I write and then I stop and then I walk away and then I reread what I've done. Then I edit and I add and I delete and I add some more. I usually walk away again before crafting the end, always the hardest part for me, and I get frustrated when I can't stick it, like a scrawny flat-chested girl shaking on one leg after flying her way off the pummel horse, except I'm not gymnastically-coordinated and I've got an impressive rack.
When the writing is good, there are tremors as I read it. I feel excited. I feel alive.
Sometimes I feel like I'm someone else.
I don't write as a way to surreptitiously reveal things that I've been inhibited to reveal before. That it happens is a side-effect, not something intentional. I struggle with that part sometimes, more so since beginning this blog. There is a sense of exposing myself, and doing it knowingly, and there have been odd repercussions.
My mom reads everything I write now. (Hi, Mommy!) I've never been one to tell anyone (except for my best friend – Hi, Becky!) everything, and I adore my mother, but that she knows much of daily mindset feels weird.
After writing something I was really proud of, a piece that started with random reveals including that I still sometimes had dreams about two of my former boyfriends, my sister and I talked.
"Have you read any of my blog?" I asked Leigh.
She never brought it up to me when we would speak.
"Yeah," she answered.
She didn't say anything else.
"Do you like it?" I asked, hating myself immediately for even glancing around that miserable, needy corner.
"Who are the two ex-boyfriends you still think about?" she responded as an answer to my question about my creativity and how it can sort of sometimes control my feelings of self-worth.
I told her. She told me she figured that's who it was. That was the end of the discussion, though she did also tell me that my writing "makes her sad" since she didn't know what I was going through.
Let's be clear: it wasn't that I was in pain that brought her sadness; it was her unawareness of that pain.
Stuff like that is why I sometimes wonder if one of us was adopted.
Strangers have started to read this blog. I know this because some of them have left me comments.
The first time I received a comment from a stranger, I took a picture of it and then texted it to two of my friends with "!!!!!!!!" as the entirety of my message. It was crazy exciting to me that someone who didn't know me had found the site, read the fucking thing, and felt compelled to type me a message. I'm sorry to say that, on many levels, the somewhat anonymous message shot out to me through the blackness of cyberspace meant more than comments from people who prove daily that they love me.
One girl I don't know, upon reading my piece on drug-addict-writer-glam-disaster Cat Marnell, typed a quick response that Marnell was not a writer, certainly not an artist. I respect that girl's opinion though I disagree with it, and I fired back a quick response saying essentially that, thanking her for her comment, and leaving out that I knew that she arrived at my site after trolling Marnell’s Twitter – the Twitter of someone she claimed to loathe – where this druggie prose pro had been gracious enough to post a link to my site.
See, I'm not interested in calling out hypocrisy; I'm far too guilty of the crime far too often to start the action of projection. I wouldn't end up with the time to do anything else if I wandered haughtily down that crowded road, though if I did and I ended up needing a place to crash, I know every person meandering down that path so there's at least that as a comfort.
I love the recaps of The Real Housewives on the NY Mag website, and I finally commented on the blog one recent day after years of quietly trolling the thing. I included the website to this blog, as I've also happily and blushing delved into the faux-aspirational abyss of those carefully-toned women, clad constantly in tight dresses, tossing statement necklaces around their bony necks that don't make nearly as strong a statement as their willingness to descend into the depths of public degradation does. (But you go, Ramona. Rock that True Faith jewelry as you swill from your Ramona Pinot. I've heard padded rooms are not cheap, and they're gonna need to construct you a duplex eventually and that shit can be costly, so sell, Mad Woman, sell. Once the soul and the mind are gone, there's only bedazzled crucifixes and booze left to hawk.)
Anyhow, tangent aside, someone from that site actually visited mine, and this person left kind and really insightful comments on several of my pieces. When I woke up early the next morning for work and I saw all of the comments, I felt so proud – and a strange kinship with someone who told me she recognized my life in her own. That I could offer someone else a cathartic experience, weeks or months after I had achieved my own cathartic moments by writing them, was truly meaningful to me.
Then there's the stunning moment that happened just a couple of days ago when I checked out the search terms that were leading current readers to my blog. Usually what I see listed is some variation of "Nell Kalter blog," but this time the new search term was: Bubbalicious + "his mouth."
I'm gonna wait a beat for that image to sink in: me, waking up still at dawn in spite of the fact that it's summer, my hair in a messy bun, the straps of my navy tank top knotted from my restless sleep. I'm holding a cup of black coffee and I've finished checking my email and I flip to the screen of my phone that shows the stats of this site, and I see it and I immediately wonder what would have happened if I had chosen Big League Chew for the gum in the piece I wrote about summer camp instead of full-sugar watermelon Bubbalicious, and I feel dirty and exposed, and I just know this wouldn't have happened if Altoids had existed back when I was eleven.
Feeling dirty is one thing. Feeling like I've been punched in the face and then kicked in the heart is quite another, and that little moment happened when some person who went by initials only commented on a piece I was very proud of by telling me she had dated the guy the piece was written about, leaving his initials as proof. There's no way to google anything within that piece and arrive at a definitive knowledge of who the subject of that post is about; the commenter knowingly did an investigation, found my name, found my blog and then dropped that written comment on me like a smoke-filled bomb, and I hope it made her feel better to do so. I sat stunned upon reading it, felt invaded to have been sought out, cried tears that were massive and free of salt because they came so quickly, contemplated deleting the piece itself -- one of my favorites – and then simply deleted her comment that was bracketed with "you're a great writer," because, really? Who fucking cares? Someone found the site with the intention of demolishing what I once believed to be true, and while I don't have even a moment of a desire to blame this girl for the fact that I was apparently on some shitty version of The Bachelor without my consent, I would never seek someone out to simply hurt her. My guess is this girl has already been hurt, and I wish pain on nobody. But the piece – though now compromised in my mind forever – stands, her comment is gone, and she can suck it – and she can do so knowing that I am no longer sucking it.
I can take criticism. I get that what I write – the subjects, the style – might not appeal to everyone, and posting things publicly makes me feel nothing but vulnerable, knowing that anonymous criticism could very well be the result. I get that; as a writer – but more so as a human being – I'm trying to work my way through that part of inviting people in to read my work. It's a process, and there are real moments when I don't think I can handle it, but then I push through that doubt, those inhibitions, and I know that I'm at least attempting to be brave, and for that I am proud.
And those dreams, the ones I have when I'm both awake and asleep, the ones that are – at once – both vivid and fleeting?
Those are coming true.